Being involved in a legal matter is rarely easy for anyone. When the case involves the dissolution of a marriage, however, it can be even more challenging. In addition to dealing with the legal and financial issues associated with divorce, there is also the emotional impact of ending a relationship. When kids are involved, it can be all the more difficult.
If you are contemplating filing for divorce, or your spouse has already filed a petition for divorce, you will need a skilled Gainesville divorce attorney to help you through the process. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, your lawyer will advise you of your rights, and work to help you achieve the best possible outcome for both you and your family.
Filing for Divorce in Gainesville, FL
Like most states, Florida is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that you don’t have to prove that your spouse did something wrong – like adultery, abandonment, or mental cruelty – to seek a divorce. Under Florida law, there are two possible grounds for filing for divorce:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken (also known as irreconcilable differences); or
- One of the parties has been declared mentally incapacitated by a judge at least three years before filing for divorce.
To file for divorce in Gainesville, at least one of the spouses must have resided anywhere in Florida for at least six months before the petition is filed.
A Florida divorce may be contested or uncontested. A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on one or more issues, such as child custody, alimony, or property division. Contested divorces can be time-consuming and expensive. An experienced Gainesville divorce attorney can work with you to protect your rights in a contested divorce.
By contrast, an uncontested divorce is when both parties decide that they want to end their marriage on amicable terms. To get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree on all issues raised in your case, including the division of assets, alimony, child custody and child support. If you can come to an agreement, then the divorce process is often much shorter and less expensive.
Property Division in a Gainesville Divorce
In Florida, assets are divided equitably in a divorce. This means that during a divorce, all assets and liabilities will be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable manner. In doing so, the court will consider a variety of factors, such as the relative contributions of each spouse, the earning potential of each spouse, and the value of one spouse staying home to raise the children.
Before making a determination on an equitable division of assets and debts, the court will first need to decide which assets are considered marital or non-marital. As a general rule, all assets and liabilities acquired and incurred during the marriage will be considered marital property, while those acquired or incurred before the marriage will be considered non-marital property. However, there are exceptions to this rule, so it is vital to consult with a skilled Gainesville divorce attorney to protect your interests during a divorce.
Alimony in a Gainesville Divorce
Alimony is financial support that is paid by one spouse to another during and after a divorce. It may be awarded if one spouse requests alimony, and the court determines that they have an actual need for it and their spouse can pay for it. During the divorce proceedings, a judge may also order pendente lite alimony to a financially dependent spouse.
A judge considers several factors in determining the amount of alimony to award, including:
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- the length of the marriage;
- the age, physical condition, and emotional condition of you and your spouse;
- the financial resources of each spouse, including the distribution of marital and non-marital assets and debts;
- the earning potential, educational levels, career levels, and the employability of each spouse;
- if applicable, the time it would take for each spouse to gain the necessary education or training needed to find appropriate employment;
- the contributions made by each spouse during the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education, and career building;
- the responsibilities each spouse may have regarding any minor children from the marriage;
- the tax treatment and consequences to each spouse of any alimony award;
- all sources of available income to each spouse, including income available through investments; and
- any other factor necessary for there to be fairness and justice between the spouses.
Whether you are requesting alimony or your spouse has requested alimony, it is important to have a Gainesville divorce lawyer by your side to represent your interests.
Child Custody and Support in a Gainesville Divorce
One of the most difficult and emotionally taxing aspects of any divorce proceeding involves determining parental responsibility, or custody, of any minor children. Child custody is determined based on a number of factors, including each parent’s ability to take care of the children’s needs, with the ultimate goal of awarding custody based on the best interests of the child.
There are two aspects to custody determinations: the ability to make decisions about the child’s life, and the amount of time that each parent spends with the child(ren). Parental responsibility may be sole or shared (joint custody). Shared parental responsibility – where the parents share the responsibilities and decision-making power for the child – is preferred, and awarded whenever possible. In some situations, one parent is awarded sole parental responsibility, typically in cases where a judge finds that granting joint parental responsibility will be harmful to the child.
In addition to determining parental responsibility, Florida divorce courts will also order a time-sharing schedule, which may also be referred to as a visitation schedule or a parenting plan. This schedule sets out specific periods of parenting time for each parent.
The amount of parenting time affects a child custody order. Child support is calculated according to the Florida Child Support Guidelines, using factors such as gross income, day care costs, and the cost of the child’s medical insurance. Child support is typically awarded to the parent who has a larger amount of parenting time and who also has a lower income than the other parent.
Child custody and support determinations can be incredibly complex. If you are thinking about divorce and have minor children with your spouse, reach out to a Gainesville divorce attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.
How We Can Help
Making the decision to file for divorce can be incredibly difficult. Once you have decided to do so, having an experienced Gainesville divorce attorney can help to ensure that your divorce goes as smoothly as possible – and that your rights are protected.
For more than 20 years, attorney A. James Mullaney has represented individuals in Florida family law matters, and served as a mediator in family law cases. For each client, James takes a hands-on, proactive approach designed to help his clients achieve their goals in an efficient, cost-effective manner. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 904-858-4334, or fill out our online contact form
Can You Get a Divorce in Florida without an Attorney?
It is possible to get a divorce in Florida without an attorney, as long as both parties agree to the terms of the divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you may be able to file for divorce without the assistance of a lawyer.
However, even if your divorce is uncontested, you will likely benefit from working with a Gainesville divorce attorney. Florida divorce law can be complex, and the decisions you make in the process can impact your life in a number of ways – such as the amount of taxes that you pay. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you develop a divorce agreement that protects your interests.
Is Florida a 50-50 State When It Comes to Divorce?
Florida follows a rule of equitable distribution, instead of community property. In a community property state, marital property is owned 50/50 by both spouses, and is divided equally in a divorce. As an equitable distribution state, Florida law provides that assets in a marriage be divided in a way that is fair – not necessarily equal. This may lead to one spouse being awarded more than 50% of the marital property.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Gainesville, Florida?
The answer to this question depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. If your divorce is uncontested, it could be finalized in as few as 20 days. More often, an uncontested divorce takes between 4 and 6 weeks after the petition is filed with the court.
If your divorce is contested, it will typically take significantly longer. Depending on the facts of your case and the issues involved, a contested divorce may take months or even years to resolve. A Gainesville divorce lawyer can help you through either process, working towards a favorable outcome and a smooth transition to the next phase of your life.